City schools meet most NCLB standards

Photo By Rick Harris
Randy Little uses a video to teach his Elizabethton High school class. Multimedia presentations allow the students to more fully experience a subject.
By Thomas Wilson
Elizabethton City Schools met the majority of federal benchmarks demanded under the 'No Child Left Behind' Law, according to data released by state officials Thursday. But three city schools were designated as "target schools" for falling short on three federally mandated categories of compliance under the law.
"This is the first year they have begun looking at this, and the Department of Education is establishing a base line," said Kim Lavin, director of special education with Elizabethton City Schools (ECS). "It doesn't mean we are a failing school."
Released Thursday by Gov. Phil Bredesen and Education Commissioner Lana Seivers, data of the 'No Child Left Behind' report found that 53 percent of state schools performed adequately on measures that ranged from test performance to attendance, while 47 percent of the schools failed in at least one of the standards the state is monitoring. The report put 711 schools on what is known as a "target" list for not meeting some of the criteria this year.
East Side and Harold McCormick elementary schools were designated as "target schools" for narrowly missing a federal attendance benchmark set forth in NCLB standards. Harold McCormick posted a 2002 attendance rate of 92 percent while East Side reported a 91 percent attendance rate, according to the NCLB report.
The federal minimum attendance rate under NCLB standards is 93 percent.
"We were glad if it had to be something it was the attendance rate," Lavin said.
West Side Elementary met all federal benchmarks reported by the state in student math and English testing proficiency and attendance. T.A. Dugger Junior High School, East Side Elementary School and Harold McCormick Elementary School met federal benchmarks for testing in math and English of all students as well as those who are classified in a subgroup as being economically disadvantaged.
Elizabethton High School also met benchmarks for attendance, graduation rate, and testing proficiency in the Algebra and English Gateway exams for all students. However, EHS received a target school designation after failing to clear the federal bar of test proficiency among economically disadvantaged students taking the English Gateway exam.
Schools failing to meet any area of the federal benchmark are designated as "target schools" by the Department of Education. There are no state or federal sanctions levied against target schools. The state Department of Education offers technical assistance to help keep "target schools" from becoming "high priority" schools.
Signed into law by President Bush in Jan. 2002, the standardized test scores in reading/language arts and math are broken down by eight student subgroups - white, black, Hispanic, Native American, Asian/Pacific Islander, limited English skills, special education and economically disadvantaged.
This year, schools must meet proficiency standards on the Tennessee Comprehensive Achievement Program (TCAP), show 95 percent participation on assessments, and have at least a 60 percent graduation rate for high school or a 93 percent attendance rate for K-8. For elementary and middle schools, at least 77.1 percent of students in each subgroup must be proficient in reading/language arts and 72.4 percent in math; for high schools, the levels are 86 and 65.4, respectively. The benchmark rises gradually over the next 10 years until it reaches 100 percent. School systems with fewer than 45 students in a subcategory are not required to report proficiency levels.
In 2003, Tennessee merged its accountability system with the federal NCLB requirements. Under the merged system, schools must show each year that a greater percentage of students are reaching standards of academic proficiency in math, reading and language arts. The goal of NCLB is for all children in every school and district to reach academic proficiency in those subjects by 2014.
The NCLB law has also forced greater accountability of K-12 teachers to raise their own proficiency in subjects they teach. The state developed a "professional matrix" scale that allows existing teachers to rank their past experiences such as evaluations, career development and professional leadership experience and teaching experience. Teachers earning a score of 100 on the matrix scale receive highly qualified status required by NCLB.
"As an educator you can go through this, or you can go back and take the Praxis in your area," said Lavin. The Praxis exam tests teachers on the knowledge of the content subject they teach, such as mathematics, biology, or English to earn highly qualified status under NCLB standards. Teachers can also earn qualified status by taking an exam through the National Board Certification on his or her content area.
Lavin said she was impressed with the department's willingness to give experienced teachers opportunities to earn the highly qualified designation set down by NCLB law. She added that experienced teachers were apprehensive about NCLB standards until the state opened up opportunities to bring them under highly qualified status.
"Until that," she said, "all of us who had been in it for awhile were wondering how we were going to meet that."